What Happens When a Separation Agreement is Breached

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

A separation agreement is a formal written agreement that couples create when they separate and often have the intent to divorce. Because couples must live separately and wait for a full year prior to filing for a divorce in North Carolina, these agreements serve to bridge that gap by spelling out the terms of property division, living arrangements, expenses, spousal support, child custody, and child support. For couples and their children facing a new normal in their lives, these agreements create certainty and stability.

However, there are times that people are unwilling or unable to comply with all of the terms of their separation agreement. Couples who have signed a separation agreement must therefore understand what happens when a separation agreement is breached.

Breach of Contract   

A critical feature of a separation agreement is that it is a legally binding contract. Therefore, the terms of a valid separation agreement are enforceable in a court of law, or the non-breaching party may collect monetary damages from the breaching party. The mere act of violating an agreement doesn’t automatically mean that there will be a consequence for the party who violates it. Rather, the harmed party must take action to seek enforcement.

If the agreement has been incorporated into a court order, then the aggrieved party must file a motion with the court to enforce the order. However, if a court has not incorporated a separation agreement, then a party must file a lawsuit with the court to seek enforcement. The party seeking enforcement or damages has the burden of proof to show that a term of the agreement has been violated. If successful, the party in violation may be ordered to comply with the terms of the agreement and/or may be ordered to pay money damages for the breach. As a consequence, the violating party may face a lien on property, garnishment of wages, or seizure of their property to satisfy the judgment.  

Let New Direction Family Law Assist You New Direction Family Law provides legal advice and representation to men and women who want to resolve the issues that arise when their marriages end. We fully appreciate that this is a time of turbulence in our clients’ lives and strive to utilize our knowledge of the law to create stability and certainty. Our attorneys have decades of combined experience, which we use to provide smart and compassionate representation to each of our clients. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Please contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or visit us at our website.